Did you know that Mexico City is amongst the top 10 biggest cities in the world? Did you also know that the region is best known for its ancient Aztec civilizations, its vast collection of museums and delicious cuisine. Sadly Mexico City, like Venice, is sinking as it is built on a vast lake. Sitting within a ring of mountains, this is one UNESCO listed destination that is an absolute must-see city at least once in your life.
Mexico City was built by the Spanish in the 16th century on the ruins of the old Aztec city Tenochtitlan. The city’s rich heritage was recognised in 1987 when it became a UNESCO World Heritage site, thanks to the discovery of the ruins of 5 Aztec temples, the largest cathedral in the Americas and particularly fine 19th century architecture such as the magnificent Palacio de las Bellas Artes.
National Museum of Anthropology
The National Museum of Anthropology has been named Mexico City’s best archaeological museum. In existence since 1971, this museum is comprised of 23 exhibition halls that house various artifacts collections. Each collection derives from a different region and/or culture. A famous Mexican symbol, the Aztec Sun Stone, can be seen at this museum. When it was first unearthed, people thought that it served as both a sacrificial altar and a calendar.
The Templo Mayor is considered one of Mexico City’s historic centers. It is also a religious landmark because it sits on the same piece of ground a Mexican god named Huitzilopochtli was on when he informed the Mexicans that this was the Promised Land. Located on the grounds of the Templo Mayor is The Sacred Precinct, which stretches 43,000 square feet. The Precinct is surrounded by the serpent wall or coatepantli. The Templo Mayor makes up The Sacred Precinct’s eastern side.
Piramides de Teotihuacan
The Piramides de Teotihuacan is an archaeological site located in Mexico’s basin. This site is home to many pyramids, with the largest one being the Pyramid of the Sun. The pyramids located here were built in the pre-Columbian Americas.
Castillo de Chapultepec and Forest
The Chapultepc Forest is Mexico City’s main park. During the 13th century the Aztecs temporarily made it their home. The park is a popular place for families to gather when they want to escape from the noise and fast pace of city living. Visitors to the park can often be found at its zoo, museums and lakes. This is also where the former and current residents of Mexico City’s president lies. Located within the park is the National Museum of Anthropology.
Palacio de Bellas Artes
The Palacio de Bellas Artes, or Palace of Fine Arts, is Mexico City’s best known and most prestigious cultural center. Many cultural events are held here, such as poetry readings, art shows and ballet performances. The decor of the palace is Art Nouveau on the outside and Art Deco on the inside. The palace holds the following Italian sculptures: Peace, Pain, Happiness, Love, Harmony and Rage.
The palace is also sometimes referred to as “Cathedral of Art in Mexico.” In 1987 UNESCO named it an artistic monument. More than 10,000 people visit this attraction every week.
The palace regularly hosts performances by both the National Symphonic Orchestra and the Ballet Folklorico de Mexico Compania Nacional de Opera de Bellas Artes. This ballet is presented twice each week and consists of Hispanic dances popular in Mexico. They perform ritual dances first practiced by the Aztecs and agricultural dances that originated in Jalisco. All of their performances include mariachi singers. Two very popular events that are held annually at the palace are the Premios Ariel, which is a Mexican film festival, and the Premio Quorom, which is an event attended by graphic designers. There have also been many art exhibitions featuring the works of Frida Kahlo.
Four sculptures can be found outside of the palace. The palace’s roof is crystal and was the work of a Hungarian artist. The inside of the palace is marble, which covers three sections of the palace. Many famous murals can be found in the Palacio de Bellas Artes.
The Metropolitan Cathedral is the home of Mexico’s Roman Catholic Archdiocese and is located close to the Templo Mayor. The cathedral holds two bell towers that house 25 bells in total. It also has a choir and two altars. There are 16 chapels located throughout the cathedral and fourteen of them allow the public to see the inside of the chapels. The cathedral itself has been altered due to a fire in 1962 which destroyed much of the inside of the cathedral. When it was being restored, many important works of art and documents were found. The work that was performed on the cathedral after the fire led to the cathedral being named as one of the 100 Most Endangered Sites. This list was compiled by the Worlds Monument Fund.
The Zocalo is Mexico City’s main plaza and can be found in the middle of Mexico City’s historic district. Beginning in Aztec times, Mexicans started gathering here to attend ceremonies, religious events and military parades, among other events. Two of the religious events held here include the Corpus Christi and Holy Week Festivals. A flagpole is located in the center of Zocalo that holds the Mexican flag. This flag is raised and lowered every single day. More cultural events are held at Zocalo, including shows that feature Aztec dancers.
Edificio de Correos
The Edificio de Correos is the post office headquarters of Mexico City. The building has been well preserved and is viewed by tourists every day. The architecture of the building is said to be breathtaking.
The National Palace is the ruling place of Mexico City. This famous government building is more than 200 meters long and is home to the National Archives Offices and the Federal Treasury.
Mexico City has sixteen boroughs and Coyoacan is one of them. A total of 140 communities can be found in this borough. Coyoacan is a very historical place and is visited by around 70,000 people per weekend. Though this area is known as rural, there are many attractions such as museums, restaurants, cantinas and bookstores. Street performers such as mimes, dancers, musicians, story tellers and clowns regularly entertain visitors to Coyoacan. More than 860 businesses are located here, making it a popular destination.
Read our full Mexico travel guide for more ideas and destination inspiration!
By Julie Bowman